After pressure from social media and colleagues, craven New Yorker editor David Remnick disinvites Bannon from the New Yorker festival

As you know, a faculty member has invited Steve Bannon to speak at the university of Chicago this fall. Despite students, alumni, and faculty raising objections to this, and asking Bannon to be banned (see here and here), President Robert Zimmer, adhering to the University of Chicago’s “Statement of Principles of Free Expression,” affirmed that Bannon will not be disinvited. And that’s the right thing to do, and something I wrote about in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune. For many reasons given in my editorial, and in Mill’s book On Liberty, we should be allowed and even encouraged to hear even the most odious or offensive speech. Inviting someone like Bannon to speak at The University of Chicago is not an endorsement of his views. That much should be obvious to anyone with two neurons to rub together. Sadly, many Social Justice types lack the requisite neurons.

And it wasn’t obvious to the many people who objected to Bannon being invited to this fall’s New Yorker Festival to have a one-on-one interview with the editor David Remnick. I am not a fan of Remnick for many reasons, including his insouciant arrogance (in his demeanor he reminds me of David Berlinski), his anti-science attitudes, and his turning the magazine into a Social Justice venue whose writing has become increasingly purple and increasingly insubstantial.

I hasten to add that I agree with Remnick’s politics except for what I said in the preceding sentence, but I don’t care for people like him who are so obviously full of themselves and so impressed with their own power. But I thought it was fine for Remnick to interview Bannon onstage to argue. It would have been a good show!

Clearly, though, Remnick didn’t know what he was getting into. As reported by The Washington Post, among other venues, social media immediately began chastising and demonizing Remnick, saying that the interview gave Bannon credibility to spread his odious views, that it even legitimized his views, and so on. That social media pushback even included Kathryn Schulz, a New Yorker staff writer:

And then came the usual Twitter reaction from the Pecksniffs and censors:

 

Well, the pressure became too great on Remnick, and after considering his own reputation, he disinvited Bannon. He did so in a very weird statement that I reproduce in larger type below:

Remnick’s full statement:

Is anybody fooled by this into thinking that Remnick changed his mind for anything but self-preservation?

The weird thing is that in this apologia the cowardly Remnick actually makes the case for interviewing Bannon (my emphasis in bold):

The effort to interview Bannon at length began many months ago. I originally reached out to him to do a lengthy interview with “The New Yorker Radio Hour.” He knew that our politics could not be more at odds—he reads The New Yorker—but he said he would do it when he had a chance. It was only later that the idea arose of doing that interview in front of an audience.

The main argument for not engaging someone like Bannon is that we are giving him a platform and that he will use it, unfiltered, to propel further the “ideas” of white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, and illiberalism. But to interview Bannon is not to endorse him. By conducting an interview with one of Trumpism’s leading creators and organizers, we are hardly pulling him out of obscurity. Ahead of the mid-term elections and with 2020 in sight, we’d be taking the opportunity to question someone who helped assemble Trumpism. Early this year, Michael Lewis interviewed Bannon, who made it plain how he viewed his work in the campaign. “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall,” Bannon said. “This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.” To hear this was valuable, as it revealed something about the nature of the speaker and the campaign he helped to lead. The point of an interview, a rigorous interview, particularly in a case like this, is to put pressure on the views of the person being questioned.

There’s no illusion here. It’s obvious that no matter how tough the questioning, Bannon is not going to burst into tears and change his view of the world. He believes he is right and that his ideological opponents are mere “snowflakes.” The question is whether an interview has value in terms of fact, argument, or even exposure, whether it has value to a reader or an audience. Which is why Dick Cavett, in his time, chose to interview Lester Maddox and George Wallace. Or it’s why Oriana Fallaci, in “Interview with History,” a series of question-and-answer meetings with Henry Kissinger and Ayatollah Khomeini and others, contributed something to our understanding of those figures. Fallaci hardly changed the minds of her subjects, but she did add something to our understanding of who they were. This isn’t a First Amendment question; it’s a question of putting pressure on a set of arguments and prejudices that have influenced our politics and a President still in office.

And yet after saying all that, Remnick decided “There is a better way to do this,” and offered a lame promise that he’ll try to interview Bannon in another place at some unspecified future date. The reason is clear: Remnick got too much disapprobation from his colleagues and from his readers. After all, if there’s any major magazine that has gone after Trump with more vigor than the New Yorker, I don’t know of it. But the New York elite simply can’t stand to have the right-wing Bannon, former editor of Breitbart, on their stage. And Remnick, of course, doesn’t want to become another Bari Weiss.

Certainly The New Yorker has a right to rescind Bannon’s invitation. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether, in a freewheeling and antagonistic conversation, viewers might gain some benefit. Maybe the ones whose minds are made up wouldn’t change their minds, but they’d still benefit from adhering to the advice of Barack Obama, who said this two years ago in a commencement speech at Howard University:

“As my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk. Let them talk. If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability. … Listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them.”

The New Yorker audience clearly doesn’t want to even hear the other side. Pity, and pity for our First Amendment.

Remnick could have drawn out Bannon, criticized him, and clarified both of their views in an instructive way, for Remnick is a smart man. Sadly, he’s also a cowardly man.

When my subscription to The New Yorker runs out, I’m going to let it lapse.

h/t: cesar

 

 

96 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    This quote from Twitter :

    “Does anyone know what a legitimate intellectual is?”

    No comment

  2. Historian
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Remnick made two mistakes. Yes, he should not have rescinded the invitation once made, particularly since he made such an eloquent argument for having the interview. The other mistake was inviting Bannon in the first place. He had no obligation to give Bannon a forum. Now, unfortunately, his reputation will be sullied for quite some time. It would not surprise me if within the next year he issues another statement regretting giving into pressure.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      I will agree with that. Two mistakes made as noted. Once you have heard a couple of interviews with this person, you have, as they say, heard them all. Interviewing him is a bit like interviewing a greased snake. He is going to put out his stuff, regardless of what you ask. Unless he is ready to tell us about the Russian connections and why Trump is such a Putin puppy I won’t be interested.

      • Nicholas K.
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        I also agree. The big mistake was inviting him in the first place. Even bigger mistake is rescinding the invitation, especially since it plays directly into Bannon’s hands.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Unless he is ready to tell us about the Russian connections and why Trump is such a Putin puppy I won’t be interested.

        But you are only one person. I would love to have heard Bannon give an interview in an adversarial environment. I’ve never seen him do one before and even if you have, there have been a number of recent events about which he might have interesting views.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      He had no obligation to give Bannon a forum.

      True, he didn’t, but isn’t dialogue between the Trump faction and the left (as opposed to ongoing yelling at each other) what America needs now?

      • mikeyc
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        It is. Which is why it will not happen.

      • Historian
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        A respectful dialogue between competing ideas is not a bad thing and it should be encouraged. But, in an extraordinarily politically polarized America, it may not do very much good in cooling passions. As long as speakers are banned at college campuses and the Trump cult chants “lock her up” at his rallies, I fear that few people actually listen to the arguments of the other side.

        America is undergoing a great cultural and demographic change, which certain elements of society fear because it could mean their relative diminution of social status and political power. Trying to stick their fingers in the dike will not work, but they will not go down without a fight. Hence, political compromise is not in the cards anytime soon. The real question is whether the nation’s political institutions can withstand the immense stress they are under. I hope they can because, if not, chaos will ensue with the likelihood of the end of democracy. History has many examples of societies that seemed stable for long periods of time and then, seemingly overnight (at least to the casual observer), they disintegrated.

  3. Terry Sheldon
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    The first piece I read on this subject (on the Daily Beast, but I can no longer find the piece) seemed to downplay the social media aspect of the “disinviting” and blame the fact that several other prominent participants including Judd Apatow, Patton Oswalt, Jim Carrey and John Mullaney refused to take part if Bannon was going to be on the program. I’m not saying that’s a better reason, but it seems that there are a couple different slants on the story.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Yes, I read this too in several places. My speculation is that Remnick was forced to cancel Bannon by his own bosses because his presence threatened to kill the entire event. Of course, Remnick couldn’t talk about all this in his statement.

      Perhaps it was also a mistake to make Bannon the headliner. While Remnick was probably happy to promote this interview, it comes close to endorsement to make someone a headliner.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        So in arranging debates, the commission on presidential debates endorses both candidates? After all, they are both headliners.

        • darrelle
          Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          It is not my intent to argue for or against either position, but it should be pointed out that the two events are quite different such that your argument / comparison doesn’t really work. A debate is an event that has the sole purpose of pitting two adversaries against each other with the expressed intent of them arguing different points of view. The New Yorker Festival is not a debate, though debate events could certainly be included in the activities. It’s an event similar to a comic-con. It is definitely very odd to select someone so at odds with the general readership of the New Yorker to be the headliner. I’m wonder if Bannon required that to reach an agreement or if Remnick misjudged his audience that badly.

          • Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I also wondered if Bannon made headlining a requirement. Remnick may have even offered it in order to coax Bannon to come.

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          Come on! Obviously a debate between political candidates is not an endorsement of any candidate by the host. It would be if one candidate was promoted by the host over the others.

          When a host holds an event with many speakers, promoting one as a “headliner” does send a message. Perhaps “endorsement” is too strong but it at least says “This person’s ideas are worth your time and effort to consider.” In this case, it certainly tells everyone that Bannon is still relevant.

          Think of it this way. If deplatforming is a valid way of objecting to someone’s ideas, then promoting a speaker as a headliner can be seen as promoting their ideas, or at least their relevance.

          • Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

            Deplatforming is not a valid way of objecting to somebody’s ideas.

          • Taz
            Posted September 4, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

            I would agree with you if one speaker among many was chosen as the “headliner”. But this was going to be an interview (and quite probably a contentious one), not a speech. It was the “event” that was chosen to headline the festival, not the person.

            • Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:13 am | Permalink

              That seems like a distinction without a difference to me. If a poster for the event mentions Steve Bannon’s name prominently, it says something about the organizer.

              • darrelle
                Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                It could say many things about the organizer. It could just as easily say, “We take seriously our obligation to keep the public informed about the realities of the people that have been key figures in our current government” than any negative message. Does anyone really expect that the freaking New Yorker would be accommodating of Bannon?

              • Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

                +1 darrelle

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Remnick’s statement is seven paragraphs of chest pounding followed by a one-paragraph ipse dixit saying “never mind.”

    He’s like a Texas Hold ‘Em player trying to bluff a hand who folds on fifth street.

  5. Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Jim Carrey, the anti-vaxxer?? I would be disappointed if Remnick caved to the likes of Carrey, but I don’t agree that Remnick is craven or cowardly.

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The opposition to interviewing Bannon insists that actual conversation with The Evil One must be shunned at all times because it “legitimizes” him and what he has to say. This view would, in all logic, also apply to Donald Trump. Therefore, conversation with Donald Trump should be shunned for the same reasons, and it follows that the televised debates between him and Hilary Clinton should never have been permitted. But also, since Hilary is also The Evil One (far- Leftists insisted she was plotting to start World War III), public conversations between her and St. Bernie should never have been permitted either.

    Come to think of it, allowing opponents of True Progressivism to speak at all, a privilege which “legitimizes” them, should be forbidden. Progressives at some academic institutions have already arrived at this insight, and are working to prevent unProgressive thoughts from being spoken.

  7. George
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    “Remnick could have drawn out Bannon, criticized him, and clarified both of their views in an instructive way …”
    He could have dome this in a printed interview. Remnick was not cowardly – he was bowing to reality. The Festival is a commercial enterprise. All the other participants were dropping out. The Festival would have been reduced to his interview with Bannon.

    Remnick is stupid for inviting Bannon in the first place and not anticipating the blowback. After the invitation,, he had two options – withdrawing the invitation to Bannon or cancelling the Festival. He may still have to cancel the Festival. Many of the participants who withdrew are not coming back.

    Zingales talking to Bannon at UofC is different. It is an academic environment that I assume the media is invited to cover. Do media institutions want to cover and highlight a competitor?

    • Chris H
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Pretty much agree.

      Bannon does not come to the table in good faith (he never has, and sees the media as The Opposition). A written interview would allow for fact checking, etc…

      David Remnick has completely misjudged this. A lot of people – starting with immigrants and going from there – see Bannon as real and present danger to their existence. That Remnick didn’t see this uproar coming suggests that a good chunk of the mainstream media are unaware how deep the culture war goes.

  8. Barry Lyons
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I knew you were going to write about this and I’m glad that you did.

    To lightly paraphrase Louis Brandeis, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Bannon has odious ideas? Let’s hear them! But not now. *sigh*

    • Chris
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      I’m sincerely asking, what’s the evidence that continuing to give bad ideas a forum in which to present themselves is an overall good? In any and all situations?

      And that’s almost not to mention the fact that we’re not talking about a sincere intellectual debate of ideas, but rather the activities of someone with a desire to implement specific policies.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        I would agree. Why gratuitously give them a platform? I’m reminded of Richard Dawkins consistent refusal to debate the odious William Lane Craig. “Would look good on his CV, not so great on mine”.

        cr

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

          That’s the speaker making the call.

          This is about the owner of the stage or forum or whatever.

  9. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “insouciant arrogance.” That perfectly characterizes David Remnick.

  10. mikeyc
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I would never have thought the New Yorker or its readers were such little children, afraid of the boogie man. Are modern people really this pathetic, whiny and weak minded or is this just how we do politics now? We hide from ideas we don’t like. Instead, we’ll let them fester and simmer until the next Trump comes out from under his rock unleashing that which we could have subdued if only we’d confronted it.

    • Chris
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think this is a a fair characterization of what’s happened. People aren’t trying to hide from the ideas. Bannon’s ideas have obviously proliferated, quite publicly. If someone has already spouted odious ideas, I don’t see not wanting to give them a further platform as illogical (or cowardly). It’s not as if anyone encountering Bannon at this event would walk away going, “Gee, I had no idea some Americans thought this way.”

      And this idea that if we only argued with Bannon and his “ideas” –with data, thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and in good faith–then we’d vanquish them? I’m sorry, but that seems quite naive. That’s not how the world works. I wish people were so thoughtful, and not prone to tribalistic hate. But talking with someone like Bannon, asking him tough questions, is not going to solve the problems posed by the existence or popularity of the Bannon worldview.

      • mikeyc
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        DrBrydon puts it well – this is just another “Festival of People Who Agree With Us”. This is how all public discourse is these days and you wonder why we are suffering from a resurgence of tribalistic hate (it is coming from both sides). Echo chambers are no defense against it.

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          Right but this sounds more Sam Harris vs Jordan Peterson than a Bannon interview. The former sounds interesting but the latter not so much.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes. Seems like all we might learn from Bannon is an answer to the question, “So how did you manage to get that awful Trump elected? And how much did the Russians help?” I would prefer Mueller’s team do the interviewing on this subject.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Another Festival of People Who Agree with Us. I think Remnick may be right that the more useful way to engage with Bannon would be in a non-public setting, if he can’t provide an appropriate public venue. The admission that his festival isn’t the place for intellectual engagement is hardly flattering, though.

  12. BJ
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    These people don’t seem to understand that when you give your opponents a platform through debate, you also give yourself a platform to speak to your opponent’s supporters. If we continue banning highly popular figures from public conversation — by, for example, banning them from social media or other public forums — we ensure that their supporters end up being exposed only to their own views and more extreme views. Every time a popular conservative is banned from a social media site and moves to, say, gab.ai, their followers end up exposed to only them and a bunch of white supremacists; all other views are now completely shut out. This is a great strategy if we want to further radicalize others and further polarize the nation, but it’s a terrible strategy for any other aim.

    Whatever one thinks of Bannon, he is the architect of one of the most unexpectedly successful Presidential campaigns in history, and that’s the kind of person you can’t shut out of public debate and recognition (nor should you want to). I get the feeling that Lee Atwater would be treated the same way today, and that we may see all people who run Republican Presidential campaigns in the future subjected to this treatment. Notice that the second tweet in this post doesn’t just refer to Bannon, but to any and all “ex-Trump staffers,” making explicit that all of them should be banned from the media as a whole.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      These people don’t seem to understand that when you give your opponents a platform through debate, you also give yourself a platform to speak to your opponent’s supporters.

      Very good point.

  13. Ferris Dane
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “Pity, and pity for our First Amendment.”

    The New Yorker has no first amendment duties to interview people, they can interview or not who ever they want. First amendment cares not about social pressure on private entities or corporations.

    I would put it, pity the left who are increasingly putting themselves into an information bubble. Not as bad as Fox News and Info Wars yet but some media outlets appear to be headed in that direction.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I realize that there’s no First Amendment right to speak at the festival, as I said. But it’s in the spirit of the First Amendment to not disinvite someone if you’ve invited them for a conversation designed to be enlightening.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I see that Judd Apatow, Patton Oswalt, and Jim Carrey are among the invited guests who cancelled. Shame that, since smart, quick-witted, politically hip comedians would be the best ones to take Steve Bannon apart.

    It’s too bad we don’t have people like George Carlin and Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor around right now. But I’d love to have a front row seat at a panel where Bannon tried to match wits with, say, a Dave Chappelle or a D.L. Hughley or a Wanda Sykes.

    And Bannon would be just the guy arrogant enough to try.

  15. Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    While I support free speech and abhor deplatforming, I wonder whether we need to hear from Bannon again. It’s not that I worry about the hate, etc. he might spew. As others here have pointed out, his interview gives an equal opportunity to counter those ideas. Everyone knows his politics by now. It’s not like he’s some great fount of ideas anyway. Trump’s feel for the stage and his ability to constantly lie without embarrassment or concern for consequences was the key to his “success”. Bannon simply egged him on. In short, perhaps we can all declare Bannon’s 15 minutes to be at an end.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      You use that word “support” …

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        What’s wrong with “support”? I am evidently missing some subtle point here.

    • Chris
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you in general (see my other comments on this post), but I continue to be surprised and confused at how many here are simply equating what Bannon would have said and what Remnick would have said, as if they were just two people sincerely and in good faith having an intellectual debate. I think we very much ought to be worrying about the hate that Bannon would have spewed, and the hate that is allowed to continue to be spewed simply to avoid being called politically correct. I’m glad that we’re talking about this on the Left, but what some don’t seem to understand is the harm that comes from normalizing hate, as if, in the context of an intellectual debate or an interview or some such that it’s okay to say things that negatively affect others, to say things that have real and negative effects on people. We are talking about this as if it happens in a vacuum, as if it were just about ideas, without addressing the fact that, for example, demeaning people, especially people who already face oppression and discrimination, only makes their situation worse, only further perpetuates it. This isn’t some social justice warrior propaganda. It’s how the world actually works. Yes, I think we need an exchange of ideas. But once someone raises the alarm of free speech it’s as if we can’t evaluate the sincerity or insincerity (or other purposes, beyond a sincere exchange of ideas) of potential members of the so-called conversation. Treating Bannon’s desire to keep talking as an Enlightenment invitation is to completely misunderstand what is happening and what he’s trying to do. Yes, of course we need to know what Bannon thinks if he or others think it, but treating him and his worldview as just one of a number of equal, competing views in some sort of Enlightenment intellectual debate rather than dealing with them in the broader context of the realities of the world does indeed do great harm, and unnecessarily so. No one’s banning Bannnon’s ability to talk about his worldview. But we certainly shouldn’t be going out of our way to elevate it, as if it were a normal, valid position to debate, as if the humanity and worth of his human beings were valid topics for debate.

      • mikeyc
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Too much to unpack in this comment. It boils down to Chris is the Decider who thinks certain viewpoints shouldn’t be heard. Which ones? The ones Chris doesn’t like, naturally.

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          That seems unfair. Obviously a host can’t invite everyone who wants to be heard so someone has to make a decision. What criteria would you, mikeyc, apply to the decision whether or not to host Bannon at this event?

          • mikeyc
            Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            It would depend greatly on the purpose and goals of the meeting. I suppose it could be a difficult thing to decide who to invite – I wouldn’t know as that is not a job I’ve ever had to do.

            But Paul, you’ve elided Chris’s argument. He wasn’t saying that a host has a tough job picking speakers (of course they do), he was saying that some views don’t deserve to be heard. While that is nominally true -one would not expect to see Ken Ham invited to speak to the a group of Evolutionary biologists, for example- he isn’t making that kind of distinction. He’s arguing the case for deplatforming.

            Bannon was offered the chance to debate but because his views are not popular (whatever he is, he is NOT an advocate of genocide nor a Nazi, as Chris implies elsewhere) and not “Goodthink”, the offer was rescinded when the wolves comes howling. Now the New Yorker is free to invite/disinvite anyone they wish and frankly, I don’t care. It’s their party, they can do it their way. But the kind of thinking that went into this decision, and put into words here by Chris, is part of the reason (though admittedly small) for the ongoing collapse of our society.

            But to your question; “What criteria would you, mikeyc, apply to the decision whether or not to host Bannon at this event?”

            If, as Remnick did, I decided to invite Bannon, if I got the social media storm Remnick faced to uninvite him, I’d tell them to go pound sand.

            • Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

              My point was deciding who to invite is basically the same as deciding what views deserve to be heard. And, deciding not to invite someone is not the same as deplatforming. Perhaps unplatforming?

              Also, what Remnick faced was more than just a “social media storm”. If it had been, I would agree with your sand pounding suggestion. Instead, it was other participants doing the dropping out, not just attendees or SJWs.

              The whole festival was perhaps in jeopardy.

              • mikeyc
                Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

                Well, perhaps it should have been. Echo chambers are boring.

              • Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

                We can agree on that.

              • mikeyc
                Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                Oh, and after disinviting Bannon, Reminck should have told Carrey, Oswald and Mulaney to go pound sand.

              • Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                Perhaps. But I assume Remnick has bosses whose concern extends to monetary losses due to a failed event. Taking the moral high ground was likely not Remnick’s only concern.

            • Chris
              Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              I think I’m failing to successfully communicate my thinking here. I think I generally agree with Jerry, and others, about de-platforming. When you invite someone, you should do your homework, be thoughtful, etc. I don’t think Remnick should have invited Bannon in the first place, and I really have no idea why he did. My comments were not specifically about the so-called de-platforming of him in this instance, though I do realize that was the impetus for this post.

              I am trying to make two, simultaneous arguments here. First, that Bannon’s ideas are all over the place (perhaps still in the White House in the form of Trump, and they were certainly in the White House when Bannon himself was there). Not having Bannon speak at this event in no way jeopardizes anyone’s ability access to his ideas or worldview.

              The second point is about the idea that these types of things are just intellectual debates (and that such things are sort of sacred, and that they almost exist on a separate plane, without any real world ramifications). And there’s this idea, as you say, that “echo chambers are boring.” On many things, yes. On the equal dignity of all human beings? No. I want to be in that echo chamber. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to pretend that Bannon doesn’t exist, but see my first point. No one’s pretending that Bannon doesn’t exist, or that his worldview isn’t a problem. The issue is how much *more* airtime does it deserve. My answer is as little as possible. These are odious “ideas” and they ought to be treated as such, rather than as potentially intellectually interesting tidbits for an entertaining exchange.

              I don’t want to be the dictator of what conversations are had, and I hope no one else does, either. (In a place of ideal political and intellectual freedom, there should be no such person, as is roughly the case in the United States). But this idea that all ideas/worldviews on any manner of issues deserve what? Equal airtime? As if some of them in and of themselves aren’t harmful? This, here, is the problem. Note, again, that I’m not calling for any sort of banning of ideas or speech. But I certainly hope for societal progress. It’s odd, even a joke, for example, to hear someone walk into a business and loudly and proudly proclaim that a woman should make less money doing equal work as a man. No one outlawed that idea, no one’s silencing such a debate. But in general, as a society, it’s become silly and absurd to entertain such a notion. Certainly the same could (and I’m arguing should) be said about Bannon.

              I think it’s actually still more complicated than this, and it’s less clear, less easy to untangle the fact that certain ideas or certain debates of certain ideas (and the normalizing that then occurs of those ideas) have real, negative effects from the sincere and good desire to, well, actually think, to have honest, good, important intellectual debate. But again, to suggest that this situation is the same as that (somewhat fantastical/mythologized) Enlightenment intellectual ideal seems itself to be a fantasy.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Well put. While our host and many commenters, myself included, are for allowing people to speak as a general good, we’ve also said that a platform is not guaranteed. Many have rightly questioned Remick’s inviting of Bannon to such an event.

        While we can’t know in advance what ideas Bannon might express in an interview, or what we might learn, we still have to judge whether it is worth the effort. Personally, I believe the chance Bannon will have something new and interesting to say to be very small. I also doubt that an interviewer will be able to convince Bannon of anything or even score points against him. If people want to learn more about Bannon and his ideas, there’s plenty out there already.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        I absolutely agree with you there, Chris.

        The idea that ‘good speech’ will always beat ‘bad speech’ and that rational arguments will always win is, sadly, hopelessly naive. The entire history of propaganda is devoted to proving the fallacy of that view.

        If it were true, then the results of the last election (which, after all, takes the form of a huge debate) would have been very different and Trump would have been lucky to get 10% of the vote.

        I am in favour of free speech but it is not a panacea. And currently ‘free speech’ seems to consist of two opposing factions shouting at each other – why give Bannon a megaphone?

        cr

        • Filippo
          Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

          “If it were true, then the results of the last election (which, after all, takes the form of a huge debate) would have been very different and Trump would have been lucky to get 10% of the vote.

          No doubt Trump is grateful for the existence of the Electoral College.

        • darrelle
          Posted September 5, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          I think you and Chris are mis-characterizing what the New Yorker event would have been and that your arguments are not well targeted because of that. The New Yorker was not offering Bannon a platform to air his views. They offered him an interview and intended it to be antagonistic.

          The arguments that his views don’t need to be heard anymore, or that the New Yorker isn’t obligated to give him a platform to express his views are valid in and of themselves, but they don’t apply here and they aren’t the only arguments with validity. Responsible journalists could and should interview people like Bannon because people like him are shaping our political discourse and they need to be revealed and opposed. Like, for one example, Joseph McCarthy. That’s what the job is supposed to be about. Keeping the public informed. Exposing the bad guys. That’s why a free press is considered to be vital to the life of a decent society. This isn’t about Bannon’s right to speak freely nearly as much as it is about ours.

  16. sensorrhea
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    By my count this website has mentioned Bannon in ten posts. Most of them are defending his right of free speech. One lavishly praises his political strategies while criticizing liberals.

    The debate over free speech is a good one, but there’s precious little of the famous “good speech countering bad speech” to be found here against Bannon’s actual ideas. Those who de-platform (or attempt to) Bannon come in for frequent and strident verbal spankings, though. The asymmetry can give what I assume is an inaccurate impression.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Umm. . . I have never praised Bannon’s political strategies, ever. As for “good speech countering bad speech” being absent, you must not have been reading the posts, where I repeatedly say how to counter it. And here’s a quote from my Tribune op-ed:

      I’m no fan of Bannon, either. I consider his views nativist, divisive and repugnant. But there’s still something to be gained by hearing his words, especially in a debate. By all means, let us demonstrate peacefully, write letters and deliver our own counterspeech. But under no circumstances should we try to silence our opponents. That accomplishes nothing. The words “I favor free speech” should never be followed by “but.”

      But thanks, Mr. Pecksniff, for counting all the mentions. You seem to have missed my frequent statements that the proper response is counterspeech. Go back and read again.

      And if anyone has the “inaccurate” impression here that I like Bannon and his views, well, that’s their own ignorance and misreading. Misreading that you have apparently engaged in.

  17. Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    That’s quite a trick, ceding the high ground to … Steve Bannon.

    He doesn’t strike me as a formidable foe in debate, but he is an expert in exploiting this kind of cowardice. “Here Steve,have an easy win.”

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      The American left is notorious for the high percentage of useful idiots among those who claim allegiance.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Hey, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity is our motto.

  18. Barney
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    How did people who object to the New Yorker’s withdrawal of the invitation see the cultural and sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa? Was that “craven” when started? Would continuing links have been “the disinfectant of sunlight” that would have persuaded more people that apartheid had to go?

    It is also possible that the New Yorker was going to pay Bannon for his participation, and that opens up another moral problem.

    • BJ
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Wait, what? How is a cultural, sports, and economic boycott of an apartheid government similar to not talking with Steve Bannon in public?

    • Taz
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Should the New Yorker have declined a chance to interview Botha at the time? That would be a closer comparison.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Gotta admit, the line in Molly Jong-Fast’s tweet about “bathtubs filled with meth and dissolving prostitutes” made me laugh.

  20. Chris
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t about letting a fool talk. It’s about an institution with great power (including supposed intellectual standards) offering space and time, part of their stage, to that “fool.”

    Also, “The New Yorker audience clearly doesn’t want to even hear the other side. Pity, and pity for our First Amendment.”

    I mean, yes, I’d prefer to live in a world where people didn’t believe what Bannon believes, but that’s not the issue. Phrased like this, it sounds like we’ll be missing out on some useful piece of information for either the betterment of the world or knowledge of the human experience. No, we would learn nothing new or useful; we’d simply be giving a platform to old, hateful ideas. Bannon has had and will continue to have opportunities to share his horrible views, and those who have not yet encountered such views are easily able to access them.

    I’m surprised and disappointed to see you set this up as “just” another side. As if a conversation on the pros and cons of genocide or Nazism were akin to a debate on when to add milk to tea, or even something far more substantial or overtly political. This is not an issue of seeing or engaging with a valid “other side.” And I realize you care about the spirit of the 1st Amendment (rather than just the strict idea that the government cannot censor speech), but even that’s not under assault here. Bannon’s ideas are fully out there and have gotten far more attention than they deserve and that any thinking, decent person needs in order to reject them. Treating this as if it were just some sort of philosophical debate in a vacuum is such a misreading of the situation. This is not another nail in the coffin of free speech and we’re better off without Bannon at this event.

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      “As if a conversation on the pros and cons of genocide or Nazism were akin to a debate on when to add milk to tea, or even something far more substantial or overtly political. ”

      <- THIS is why so many public discussions are Balkanized, divisive and poisonous to our Democracy. When speech that has not yet happened is demonized, from a man who does not advocate either of those things; THAT is tribalistic hate, as you bemoaned above.

      Bannon is a manipulative and dangerous man with bad ideas but he is not an advocate of genocide or Nazism, but feel free to continue to treat your opponents like baskets of deplorables. It worked out great for us last time.

      • Chris
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        If you don’t think Steve Bannon is deplorable, well, of course you’re free to have that opinion, but I certainly disagree.

        But I don’t hate Steve Bannon in a tribalistic way. I don’t think I even hate him in any way. I just think his worldview, politics, and policies are bad, odious, dangerous, and wrong. And not wrong as in he doesn’t have the right (in my opinion) solution to the deficit. Morally bad wrong, in that he seems not to value all people equally, that inequality and perhaps even hatred of difference are built into his worldview. I guess in some ways it goes back to this old chestnut: is it intolerant of me to not tolerate intolerance? I don’t think so.

        If I’m being unfair to his positions, well, then I do apologize. I know he has tried to distance himself from so-called white nationalism, but he’s also done at least as much to animate that cause. I didn’t mean to suggest that he was an actual Nazi (this is where I should probably not include the New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz’s joke about giving Steve Bannon a chance because he’s not an actual Nazi, right? Perhaps that’s not where that was from.). Joking aside, I agree that we need to be accurate and fair, even to ideas and people with whom we disagree, and even if it’s more than just simple disagreement. Even for odious ideas, yes, I agree, I should be careful to distinguish between actual Nazism, white nationalism, and whatever Bannon’s calls his worldview. But if I failed to make those clear distinctions, I think the fact that Bannon’s ideas are at least far more in that direction than any mainstream politician in my living memory played some role. I’m not imagining the ethnonationalism, xenophobia, etc. If the distinction is between “yes, I believe in the superiority of whites, but I wouldn’t violently force that” and actual Nazism, I agree there’s a distinction, and I guess a not insignificant one, but when you try to ban entire groups of peoples, it’s clear which side of that debate you’re coming down.

        As for the politics, sure, I guess we should just do whatever works best (that’s not sarcasm, though it is certainly said with some resignation and disappointment; I want us to live up to our political ideals, but clearly that’s not going to happen, so I guess it is best to just try to get the most decent people elected). HRC won the popular vote. I agree that Trump still got way more votes than he ought to have (in the sense that some of us hoped the country wasn’t in that bad of shape), but if you think the solution is to appease people who do actually have deplorable views, then I’ve just got to disagree. There’s got to be a better way forward.

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          Very thoughtful. It reminds me of another reason for having interviews and debates with Bannon. The Left often vilifies Bannon solely for helping to elect Trump, not for his specific policy ideas. As has been noted often in these pages, this plays into Trump’s hand as it allows him and his supporters to claim his opponents are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and are part of a Deep State conspiracy to bring him down. It would do many on the Left a lot of good to hear Bannon’s policy ideas and their counter-arguments if only to give their dislike of the man a more substantial foundation.

        • mikeyc
          Posted September 4, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          No time to unpack this either. Just a couple of things. You don’t need to apologize to me (or anyone else) about your characterization of Bannon. My point isn’t that you were wrong – my point is that when you begin any argument by accusing your opponent of being a Nazi or a racist or any of the other forbidden peoples categories, you will not get a discussion. You will get shouting and invective and nothing but bile and hate will devolve from the argument. This is our political discourse today and you are engaging in it.

          Hilary lost for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that she is very unlikeable person and candidate. Other things pertain- a long-past its usefulness 18th century style election process, propaganda by foreign agents, blacks not showing up to vote (and Dems in general sitting it out), etc. But there can be no denying that “baskets of deplorables” hurt Clinton. Many people who were on the fence saw this for what it was – a racist dog-whistle, one not for the usual dogs. The Democrats since, as is their policy, have learned nothing from this and it is why they will have a very hard time winning the house this fall (they cannot win the senate).

  21. darrelle
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jerry and Remnick himself 100% that interviewing Bannon should be welcomed rather than denied. In Remnick’s dis-invitation letter he wrote very well why talking with ideological opponents in general and Bannon in particular should be tolerated and even welcomed.

    I do think that making Bannon the headliner for this particular event, or any event of this type, was a bad idea. The backlash was easily foreseen. Of course no matter the circumstances I’m sure The New Yorker would have received heavy criticism. But I do think that in these particular circumstances the critics have one small point. Bannon as headliner at this particular event isn’t a good fit. Interviews of the kind I’m sure Remnick was hoping to achieve are a bit out of place for this event and I can understand other invitees not wanting to be on a platform headed by Bannon.

    But, I can think of a much better outcome. The other invitees instead of taking their balls and going home, as it were, could instead have talked up about how they were looking forward to seeing Bannon exposed for the evil ass-hat he really is. They could have made this into a media-coup of grand proportion if they had played it right. Instead they’ve handed Bannon the win without offering the slightest bit of resistance. This is almost certainly what he planned for and hoped would happen. After all, he isn’t a particularly formidable speaker when confronted with criticism. And here the left could have had him on their home turf, at their mercy, with weeks to prepare their audience for the show. Now all the left has is more virtue signaling to bounce around within the walls of our self-erected echo chamber.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      “The other invitees instead of taking their balls and going home, as it were, could instead have talked up about how they were looking forward to seeing Bannon exposed for the evil ass-hat he really is.”

      Yes, but would he have been exposed as the evil ass-hat? For that you need a very good, capable, determined interviewer, who is also a formidable speaker. Sans that, Bannon just gets a platform to spread his ideas and for Faux News to Trumpet his victory.

      cr

      • darrelle
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        I think there would have been little chance of that in this case, but who knows? Are we so unsure of our position that we should be afraid to confront their’s? Just who are we afraid will be persuaded or emboldened by Bannon? Who isn’t already? Is it really that hard to beat the likes of Bannon at his own propaganda game? Apparently it is because he just scored another victory without even having to work for it.

        Perhaps it would have been best not to invite him. But once he was I think disinviting him was a worse choice than going through with it. I think it likely that Bannon was counting on this response.

  22. Robert
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The New Yorker “statement” is an example of a “non sequitur”. The author makes an argument and offers a conclusion that is not supported by his proffered evidence.
    It is weird coming from a prominent political journalist. I suspect there is more to this story.

  23. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I am mostly sympathetic to this, but I would hope the interviewer here would play hardball.

    If you interview Bannon and then ask him innocuous softball questions, then the nay-saying deplatformers have just a bit more of a point.

    On the other hand, interviewing him with well-targeted hardball questions is better than just letting people have knee-jerk reactions of shock.

  24. Another Tom
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    The Economist invited Steve Bannon to their Open Future festival because he represented the opposite of an open society.

    The letter defending this is here:
    https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/09/04/the-open-future-festival-and-steve-bannon

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      “The future of open societies will not be secured by like-minded people speaking to each other in an echo chamber, but by subjecting ideas and individuals from all sides to rigorous questioning and debate. This will expose bigotry and prejudice, just as it will reaffirm and refresh liberalism.”

      That’s all that needs to be said.

  25. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Well, ironically, those who argue that having the interview will raise Bannons’ stature are missing what is most valuable to the alt right. It is not being invited to a venue that that crave, it is being disinvited. Hook, line, and sinker.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Yes indeed.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand the fuss. The article I saw mentioned that Jim Carrey among others wrote NY that they would never share a platform with Bannon. Actor as private person can deplatform Bannon all they want. The Pecksniff parade, not so much.

    Apparently NY folded, but that should not be interpreted as craven or against freedom of speech – and that seems to be that Remnick’s letter espouse.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      “Actor as private person” = actors as private persons.

  27. Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Cowardly? I dunno, he was pretty bold about denouncing the establishment in “Lenin’s Tomb.” He just has a problem denouncing the establishment when he’s the establishment.

  28. Filippo
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to hearing the NY Times editorial board’s pearls of wisdom about this matter.

    Re: Lindsay Beyerstein’s tweet – I take it that she is no longer affiliated with the Center for FREE INQUIRY.

  29. josh
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I just want to point out the tweet by Sherrilynn Ifill, which seems to be a common sentiment, doesn’t ring true to me. I.e.-

    “This is how we got here. The normalization and elevation of figures like Steve Bannon by respected platforms that should know better.”

    No one had ever heard of Bannon until a few years ago when he was the head of Breitbart News. He wasn’t given fawning coverage from liberal or mainstream outlets, rather he took over a publication right-wingers built for themselves. Then he was catapulted to prominence by Trump’s success and obviously he had a significant following, built largely independent of “respected platforms”. We got here because conservatives have constructed their own alternate reality over decades via talk radio, Fox News, and now the internet.

    I don’t know that the New Yorker needed to make him a headliner, but the idea that all this would go away if some insufficiently woke liberal had just deplatformed the right people is nonsense.

    • Barney
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      It’s not necessarily an “idea that all this would go away”, but about what are opinions and stances worth discussing in the future. If the New Yorker festival gives him time and a platform, then TV stations may accept him as a pundit, or moderate right wing think tanks might give him a job in the future. It affects the window of common discourse.

      • josh
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        But like I said, he’s already a figure in the common discourse and his ideas are being discussed by the president of the US, whether we like it or not. It’s just not true that we ‘got here’ because mainstream outlets didn’t refuse to cover him.

        I think a stance is worth discussing if 40+% of the electorate agrees with it, even if I find it odious. It seems a bit silly to worry that he’ll get a cushy sinecure or TV time because of course he will, so this just seems like, well, virtue-signaling. Rather than speaking truth to power, or confronting bad ideas head on, people are running away to congratulate their friends on bravely only inviting the right people to their cocktail parties.

        I don’t want to over-sell this one example, Bannon at the head of a New Yorker festival seems weird to me. But the puritanical idea that he, and by extension everyone who has had any business with him, is untouchable, seems to me an immature reaction that ignores reality.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree. This is not how it happened at all. People like Trump seek power to implement their tribal hatreds and bad ideas. They need intelligent people like Bannon to give them the methods to get their message across. Trump isn’t smart enough to develop a cogent anti-immigration message, for example. He only has his hate, con-man skills, and criminal instincts. He relies on people like Bannon to supply the rationales and ideational infrastructure needed to convince the masses. The Bannons of the world have been honing those messages on right-wing media for decades, just waiting for the right leader to come along.

  30. eric
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    So,I’m mostly in agreement with the many folks above who think the New Yorker goofed in originally inviting him, and then goofed again when they disinvited him.

    But that begs the question – if they wanted someone from the ‘Trump camp’ to add to the event, who would’ve been a good choice? Try to think of realistic choices – my original thought was John Kelly, but he’s not realistic since as WH Chief of Staff he’d never agree to do it. So folks like that are out. And sure there are many famous people who agree with Trump, but they don’t necessarily represent the Trump camp the way a Bannon or Kelly would.

    So, if they wanted dialogue to include that camp, that ‘side,’ who should’ve the New Yorker picked to invite instead?

    • Chris H
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      I think that any sitting national politician from the GOP with a 100% pro-Trump voting record would be an interesting one.

      Make them squirm. But, I fear, an interviewer never would and the pols would never agree to a hostile conversation.

  31. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I offer a … not sure what this is, but I e seen it done – reduce a complex series of events into a pseudo-dialogue:

    A living person creates a disaster for everyone.

    Everyone : holy hell, how did that happen?
    The New Yorker : lets find out. Hey person : please tell everyone what you were you thinking when you created this disaster for everyone.
    Everyone : no I don’t want to hear.
    The New Yorker: I apologize. Dear person I just asked to tell everyone what you were thinking when you created the disaster for everyone : don’t tell everyone anything.

  32. Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    FYI, looks like there will be a real debate between Bannon and David Frum on Nov. 2nd:

    https://www.munkdebates.com/The-Debates/The-Rise-of-Populism

    I’ve never watched a Munk Debate but it looks like you can stream it for free by registering with the site.

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I’ve never seen one either, but they are quite well regarded in some circles here in Canada.

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I just got that notification, too. We’ve watched all the Munk debates over the past 8 or 9 years and generally they’re terrific. We’ll be driving home from Palo Alto on the 2nd, but might catch it on phone or on iPad in motel room. Not sure how much Bannon I’ll be able to stomach, though. Frum is really good (for a conservative…)

      • Posted September 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Frum is one of the best of the Never Trumpers. His essays are excellent.


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